United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS EDWIN MILLS
AND CARLO WILSON'S JOINT MOTION FOR A PETIT JURY DRAWN
EXCLUSIVELY FROM WAYNE COUNTY, MICHIGAN (Dkt. 771)
A. GOLDSMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants Edwin Mills and
Carlo Wilson's joint motion for a petit jury drawn
exclusively from Wayne County, Michigan (Dkt. 771). The
Government filed a response in opposition to the motion (Dkt.
792), to which Defendants replied (Dkt. 832). For the reasons
stated below, the Court denies the motion.
the Court has previously described the factual and procedural
background of this case in greater detail in other opinions,
it need not do so again for purposes of the present motion.
See, e.g., United States v. Mills, 378
F.Supp.3d 563 (E.D. Mich. 2019) (denying motions to dismiss);
United States v. Mills, No. 16-cr-20460, 2019 WL
1915762 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 30, 2019) (denying motions for bills
of particulars); United States v. Mills, 367
F.Supp.3d 664 (E.D. Mich. 2019) (granting in part and denying
in part motion to preclude rap lyrics and videos).
argue that, under 18 U.S.C. § 3235, they are entitled to
a petit jury drawn exclusively from Wayne County, Michigan,
and not the nine counties that a jury would usually be drawn
from for trials held in the Detroit division of the Eastern
District of Michigan, Southern Division. Defendants claim
to find further support for their position in the Sixth
Amendment and the Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968
(“JSSA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1861 et seq.
constitutional right to a jury trial appears twice in the
U.S. Constitution. First, Article III provides that
“the Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of
Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held
in the State where the said crimes shall have been
committed.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 3.
Second, the Sixth Amendment provides that “[i]n all
criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a
. . . trial by an impartial jury of the State and district
wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district
shall have been previously ascertained by law.” U.S.
Const. amend VI. It is readily apparent that Article III
was concerned with establishing a jury trial right in
criminal cases and venue for criminal trials, while the Sixth
Amendment reconfirmed these rights and added the right to a
jury from the locale of the crime, known as vicinage.
comes to federal capital cases in particular, the venue of
the trial has been further limited by legislation. Section 29
of the Judiciary Act of 1789 once provided that, in
“cases punishable with death, the trial shall be had in
the county where the offence was committed, or where that
cannot be done without great inconvenience, twelve petit
jurors at least shall be summoned from thence.” Act of
Sept. 24, 1789, ch. 20, § 29, 1 Stat. 88. The latter
vicinage requirement that twelve jurors in capital cases be
summoned from the county of the crime was later repealed in
1862. See Zicarelli v. Gray, 543 F.2d 466, 478 n.60
(3d Cir. 1976) (citing Act of July 16, 1862, ch. 189, §
2, 12 Stat. 588). The current statute governing the venue of
capital cases-18 U.S.C. § 3235-similarly provides that
“[t]he trial of offenses punishable with death shall be
had in the county where the offense was committed, where that
can be done without great inconvenience.”
contend that § 3235 must be interpreted to mean that
they are entitled to a petit jury composed of citizens only
from the county in which offense was committed-here, Wayne
County. According to Defendants, the phrase “had in the
county where the offence was committed” in Section 29
of the Judiciary Act expressed Congress's intent to
guarantee a “county-level vicinage right to those
facing capital punishment . . . .” Defs. Mot. at 9-10.
Defendants argue that, although it was later amended in 1862,
the unaltered clause in Section 29 is virtually identical to
the language in § 3235, and, therefore, it should
similarly be interpreted to mean that “a federal
capital defendant is entitled to a jury drawn from that
county's residents as well as to proceedings within its
geographic boundaries.” Defs. Mot. at 12. The Court
finds Defendants' argument meritless.
Court begins with the text of § 3235, ascribing the
statute's words with their plain and ordinary meaning,
while, at the same time, ensuring that any construction of
§ 3235 would not render any part of it inoperative,
superfluous, void, or insignificant. Corley v. United
States, 556 U.S. 303, 314 (2009); United States v.
Albertini, 472 U.S. 675, 680 (1985). If the statutory
language is plain given the words “in their context and
with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme,
” the Court “must enforce [§ 3235] according
to its terms.” King v. Burwell, 135 S.Ct.
2480, 2489 (2015); accord United States v. Bedford,
914 F.3d 422, 427 (6th Cir. 2019) (“It is well
established that ‘when the statute's language is
plain, the sole function of the courts-at least where the
disposition required by the text is not absurd-is to enforce
it according to its terms.'” (quoting Lamie v.
United States Tr., 540 U.S. 526, 534 (2004))).
3235 is clear and unambiguous. Under a plain and
straightforward reading, the statute merely provides that a
federal capital trial must generally be held in the county
where the offense was committed, but even that right is not
absolute. Cf. United States v. Taylor, 316 F.Supp.2d
722, 727 (N.D. Ind. 2004) (“Section 3235 does not vest
a defendant with an absolute right to a trial within the
county where the offense was committed.”). Nothing in
the statute's text suggests that the jurors must be drawn
from the same county. Indeed, the very heading of this
statute-“Venue in capital cases”-clearly
indicates that it addresses venue for capital cases, nothing
more. See Fla. Dep't of Revenue v. Piccadilly
Cafeterias, Inc., 554 U.S. 33, 47 (2008)
(“[S]tatutory titles and section headings are tools
available for the resolution of a doubt about the meaning of
a statute.” (quotation marks omitted)).
§ 3235 finds itself within the statutory scheme of
Chapter 211 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which
establishes the rules governing “Jurisdiction and
Venue” in criminal cases. While Defendants are correct
that, at one point in time, a capital defendant had a
statutory right to a jury selected from the county of the
offense, Congress repealed that right in 1862 “after
realizing the difficulty obtaining impartial jurors from the
immediate vicinity of the crime.” United States v.
Watts, No. 14-cr-40063, 2016 WL 6873040, at *3 (S.D.
Ill. Nov. 22, 2016); United States v. Parker, 19
F.Supp. 450, 459-460 (D.N.J. 1937) (noting that, in 1862,
Congress realized the difficulty of obtaining an impartial
jury where all jurors are selected from the county of the
offense); see also G. Ben Cohen & Robert J.
Smith, “The Racial Geography of the Federal Death
Penalty, ” 85 Wash.L.Rev. 425, 441-442 (2010)
(“[T]he ease of the repeal effort does not warrant the
conclusion that no weighty purpose drove the motion to repeal
. . . . Northerners, again concerned about the ability of
county-level Southern juries to return treason verdicts
against would-be secessionists, wanted the county-level juror
requirement removed so that a more diverse jury could be
drawn from the entire federal district.”).
failure to find support for their position in the case law is
not surprising, as it appears that every court interpreting
§ 3235 has reached the same conclusion as this Court.
See, e.g., Watts, 2016 WL 6873040, at *3
(“There is simply no support for the proposition that
Congress intended in enacting § 3235 for jurors in
capital cases to all come from the county of the
offense.”); United States v. Ciancia, No. CR
13-902, 2015 WL 13798679, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2015)
(“There is no case law to support Defendant's claim
that 18 U.S.C. § 3235 allows for a jury to be composed
of only residents of the county in which the crime was
committed.”); United States v. Northington,
No. 07-550-05, 2014 WL 1789151, at *9-10 (E.D. Pa. May 6,
2014) (denying the defendant's motion for a new trial
based on his claim that § 3235 entitled him to a jury
composed of residents from Philadelphia County only because
there is “no statutory right to a jury from the county
of offense”); United States v. Savage, Nos.
07-550-03, 07-550-04, 07-550-05, 07-550-06, 2012 WL 4616099,
at *2 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 2, 2012) (rejecting the defendant's
“attempt to import a ‘vicinage requirement'
into” § 3235, and finding that the “statute
requires only that the trial of a capital defendant be held
in the county where the offense was committed”);
United States v. Johnson, No. 04-17, 2010 WL
1294058, at *2 (E.D. La. Mar. 29, 2010) (rejecting the
defendant's argument that “venue as contemplated by
Section 3235 contemplates jury venire and selection as well
as the presentation of evidence”).
§ 3235 is concerned with venue, not vicinage, Defendants
appear to also argue that the Sixth Amendment and the JSSA
support their argument that a petit jury must be drawn
exclusively from Wayne ...